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Full text of "My Country And My People"

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THE    CHINESE    CHARACTER               69

proud of their knowledge of human nature, and proud of their
having solved the problems of life in all its ethical and political
relationships.

In a way, he was justified. For Confucianism not only asked
about the meaning of life but also answered it in a way that
left people satisfied with having found the meaning of human
existence. The answer was solid, clear and sensible, so that it
left people with no desire to speculate about the future life or
to change the present one. Man naturally becomes con-
servative when he realizes he has got something that works
and therefore something that is true. The Confucianist saw
no other way of life, thought no other way possible. The fact
that Westerners, too, have a well-organized social life and that
a London policeman would help an old woman across the
street without any knowledge of the Confucian doctrine of
respect for old age comes to the Chinese always more or less as
a shock.

When the realization came that Westerners possess all the
Confucian virtues of courtesy, orderliness, honour, kindliness,
courage, and honesty of government, and that Confucius
would have personally approved of the London policeman
and tube conductor, that racial pride was badly shaken. There
were things that displeased the Chinese and struck him as raw,
uncouth and barbarian, like husband and wife walking hand
in hand together, father and daughter kissing each other,
kissing on the screen, kissing on the stage, kissing on the rail-
way platform, and kissing everywhere. These things confirmed
him in the belief that the Chinese civilization was really
superior. But there were other things, like the common people
being able to read, women being able to write letters, general
cleanliness (which he imagined was a heritage from the
Middle Ages instead of a nineteenth-century invention),
students* respect for teachers, and English boys always saying
"Yes, sir," to their superiors and the like which were im-
measurably impressive. These, together with good roads, the
railway, the steamship, good leather boots, Parisian perfume,
the wonderfully sweet white children, the X-ray pictures, the
camera, the phonograph, the telephone, and many similar
things, have completely shattered the native pride.